Why is it so hard to learn katakana?

Don’t worry!
When I started I made physical katakana flashcards and memorized how they looked
For example:
シ し She can hold a baby
ツ つ tsu can not hold anything and drops down
ワ わ wa water comes out of taps


My problem with katakana is with the added sounds, I simply can’t shove them into my brain xD

This is what I did. Every day just wrote them all out in order.

But if that seems boring there is always “Learn Japanese to survive ‘katakana war’” on Steam. There’s a hiragana, katakana and kanji version - kanji one is not worth it as only covers 200 kanji.

Still not as good as a paper and pad IMO - but a nice casual way to learn none-the-less.


that’s a good idea. i go through them a lot but although i try to randomise where i start, i still follow a book so they are in order.

list a lot of people, i struggle tons with kata and almost not at all with hiragana. i have spent more time on kata by now for sure. dunno if it’s because it’s the second one i learned but my brain absolutely refuses to absorb them lol.

this site had a great flash based drag and drop timed game but flash is no more *cries



This is my own issue with katakana. There’s the disconnect between what should be a word or expression I recognize in English, but seeing it Japanized into katakana often throws me off and confuse me.

It gets easier with more reading practice, but there are plenty of katakana words that just confuse me because of what they say. :sweat_smile:

Have to say you guys seem like such a helpful, patient, and good-natured community. Thanks for all the responses so far!



I was angry about ファンタジー for a long time until I realized America-is-not-the-world and the word didn’t actually come from English.


I mean, not every loanword comes from English xD

Don’t worry, Japanese finds a way for those as well. Pronounciation and spelling aren’t gonna map 1 to 1.

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But there are also many loanwords and neologisms that are from or inspired by English but make absolutely no sense to anybody who approaches them from the angle of “oh, it’s English”. Just look at “handoriman”.

And the same disconnect also exists for loanwords from other languages, e.g. German “Arbeit”, which literally just means “work” vs. Japanese “baito”.

I haven’t read everything up the thread so maybe others said it already, but what I did after I studied Japanese for a few months and realized I couldn’t read and write katakana yet - I took texts in Japanese and wrote everything in katakana, by hand. I didn’t even work on understanding the texts, just tried to burn the letters into my memory by writing everything with them


The English word “Tycoon” is a loanword from Japanese, not the other way around. It is derived from “大君” (read: taikun), a title used by the Shoguns of the Tokugawa clan in diplomatic relationships, in particular with China and Korea.

(I think you might be joking but I’m honestly not sure???)

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Just googled ‘baito’. lol

Not sure what’s there to lol about? It’s not uncommon for loanwords to pick up additional meaning, similar to how English “beef” refers to a kind of meat whereas French “boeuf” just means “cow”.

I just found it funny that the meaning in Japanese is so far removed from the original word from which it derives.

First hit on google for me was for バイトテロ: Part-time job terrorism - Wikipedia

Which made me smile, at least.

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I found katakana hard at the beginning and still struggle with it now tbh. I’ve found that drilling common katakana words with flashcards really helps, rather than focussing on the few characters giving me trouble. Your reading speed improves when you start to recognise words from the general shape rather than sounding out each letter.

I also watch a lot of japanese-subbed vlogs on YouTube to improve my reading speed and after a while I get used to the katakana words regularly used on each channel and start to recognise them more quickly. It helps that they’ll usually be in context (eg I watch a lot of cafe vlogs so they’ll be food and drink words).

i think many people underestimate how much time/effort the kana need.

when we read texts in the latin alphabet (or whatever your most-used script is) the effort to recognise the characters is pretty much zero. but we spend literally tens of thousands of hours with these characters, so it’s no surprise we recognise them easily.

with japanese, we learn the kana early on, and often say things like “i’ve learned the kana”. then we happily proceed to more interesting aspects of this language. and that’s fine, because while learning japanese we are also always confronted with and practicing our kana. but while we’re learning all the rest of the language we’re also practicing the kana, until we get that instant and automatic recognition we have of roman letters.

at this point i’ve spent maybe six or seven hundred hours learning japanese. and obviously i’ve been seeing kana during most of that time. but that isn’t really all that much time, all in all; i probably spent more time reading english before i even started school. so i’m okay with sometimes stumbling over a kana, with just not recognising it, or mistaking it for another. because in the grand sheme of learning and using a language, i’m still very much at the beginning.

and as others have noted before, we tend to be exposed to katakana rather less than hiragana, so it’s not surprising that we find ourselves lagging behind a little bit behind.

on a side-note, my brain has started doing a weird little thing recently. it’s been telling me that い and i look basically the same. ditto for あ and a, and even か and ka. i’m taking this as a sign that some new connection has been made, and that it’s starting to process the hiragana with the same specialised nodes which it uses for the latin alphabet :smiley:


I think the app I used to learn hiragana literally just highlights how あ、い、う and た look kind of similar to their Latin counterparts.

Yeah katakana madness is great. Seeing katakana everyday helps it stick, I say the sooner you download it the better. No reason to wait.

Another thing I’ve done is I’ve transliterated a few of the names of my friends into katakana and written them down a bunch. That way if I’m reading and I see it, it reminds of my friend’s names and reminds me of what they say. If that makes sense? Like I know what ヂ looks like because it reminds me of ヂラン。And when I see マ I think of my roommate マヤ。I thought of it after realizing I never forgot how to write で or す early on because you write down desu a lot when first learning how to write lol.